Something to Think About: the Word “Asian”

by: Alyssa Ruffolo

There are many words which we have now eliminated or at least deemed unacceptable in our ever-changing vocabulary here in the United States. Words such as retarded, queer, and gay all once meant something different than they do now. There are also offensive words for probably every ethnicity and race that exists in the United States, which we are encouraged by society not to use for pretty obvious reasons. The next word that needs to go is the word “Asian.”

Lets take a moment to define this word. When we use this word, many Americans think immediately of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and maybe Korean people. Most likely our minds jump right to these nations in particular because the United States has close relations with or has immediately been affected by them in some way. In reality, the word “Asian” encompasses the citizens of Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen (http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/asia-resources/). That’s quite a few nations! Areas considered Asian occupy a total of 30 percent of the Earth’s land, and the people make up a whopping 60 percent of the world’s population! Doesn’t it seem a bit stereotypical when we group all of these people together as one race, “Asian”? Or maybe it’s just ignorant.

Either way, this word Asian is such an umbrella term that it basically has no meaning. The cultures and traditions of these nations vary greatly. We need to respect these people and start referring to them by the nation they come from. This requires us to become more educated about other nations and countries besides the ones belonging to the continent of Europe. We are very knowledgeable about Germany, France, and Great Britain, but what do we know about India? What do we know about the Mongolian Conquest and other extremely influential events that have occurred anywhere else in the world besides the United States or a war the U.S. was involved in? Our grade school education is too narrow and that is why we have ignorance. Perhaps next time you find yourself in a situation where you want to use the word “Asian,” maybe take an extra minute to discover where that person is truly from — just something to think about. Let’s move away from ignorance and start truly respecting other nations/cultures.

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